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Electronic sports have come a long way. Research firm Newzoo tabbed 2015 revenues at $325 million worldwide, with projections to grow to $463 million this year and $1.1 billion by 2019. Boasting an audience of 131 million enthusiasts plus another 125 million casual viewers, competitive gaming is much more than a trend; it is a bona fide force.
Sales: The Next Frontier
Currently, eSports sponsorship revenue from non-endemic brands lags behind the overall opportunity size. The concept of eduselling (see figure 1) originates in traditional sports, where systemic sales processes are common. Since the typical non-endemic company is mostly unfamiliar with the video game and/or eSports industry, understanding how best to utilize eSports properties as a sponsorship vehicle is paramount; creating a great fit for an eduselling approach within the eSports sponsorship sales process. Eduselling introduces information and assistance for the prospective sponsorship decision maker to: improve knowledge and understanding of the eSport property, and its benefits, while building rapport between the rights holder and buyer.
Step 1 & 2– Preparing to win
Preparation, followed by proper execution, is critical to winning in sales, eSports, or any other field. Athletes often employ a practice time to game time ratio of at least 10:1. Likewise, winning sales are built on a foundation of planning and research prior to engaging prospects. Preparation focuses on identifying potential motivations – in the form of a business issue or potential missed opportunity – that causes a buyer to act. This entails the first two steps, shown in the diagram above: (1) Identify the prospect, (2) Prepare “how-to” guides.
Sales are defined by a process with components, not a one-time transaction. Regardless of how complex the sales situation, executable selling activities must lead to direct contact with prospective buyers. Every step must be framed with the customer as the focal point. Assisting customers solve business problems and achieve constructive, measurable results is the basis for every single action. Below are key parts of the preparatory phase:
Build an audience profile
Each eSport property features a unique mix of fans, followers, users, etc. Preparing as much relevant data about this audience is critical in demonstrating a fit with a prospective sponsor. This can include demographic descriptions and lifestyle characteristics for the property’s audience. Surveys, interviews, and other forms of feedback can help divulge valuable insight into the profile of an eSport brand’s following. Prospective sponsors expect eSports rights holders to know their audience inside out. After all, they are the heart of a proposal.
Identify key facts
A large part of sales preparation involves understanding key elements of a prospective sponsor’s enterprise, such as target markets, job titles involved with the decision making process, and high priority business issues for those titles. Since prospective non-endemic sponsors exist across a range of industries, this requires focused research. And while every company is different, there are patterns within the same industries.
The goal is to frame the eduselling process around the key motivations for considering eSports as a sponsorship vehicle. This is especially important today, as most rights owners are not highly experienced selling eSports sponsorships into the industries in which non-endemics do business. Therefore, learning as much about what a potential sponsor is trying to accomplish is critical.
Forging an education path
The point of applying eduselling within the eSports sponsorship sales process is to address the, oftentimes, substantial knowledge gap between rights holders and typical non-endemic sponsor. This places added importance on scoping the approach to, and direction of, education material. Examples include: descriptions of available sponsorship inventory, current sponsor roster plus any testimonials, sponsor programs, and the like.
The point is to position a learning experience about the eSport property as part of, not separate from, the overall sales pitch. For example, competitive video gaming is widely recognized as a strong channel for accessing hard-to-reach demographics. Instead of relying solely on quantitative data points, e.g. average age of viewers, eduselling would also accentuate the value of attention over impressions within an appropriate context.
Unlike a pre-canned sponsorship deck, the educational components of eduselling are custom to the opportunity at hand. Determining what should be included is influenced by, among other things, the intended audience, key business drivers, and the target market for a given prospect. This is where understanding buyer motivations are absolutely critical. Sponsorships should be viewed as solutions to business issue(s), which motivate a prospect to entertain the sales pitch. Education elements must align with these core motivations, in order to resonate.
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Alex Fletcher is founder & CEO at eSports Group, an eSports strategic consulting firm committed to meeting the demands of companies that want to reach young, digitally-minded consumers. Based in the Washington DC area, he consults and advises with companies to ensure the best possible returns in the eSports industry. Follow him on Twitter – @FletchUnleashed or contact by email – firstname.lastname@example.org